The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

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Being active with a respiratory condition

Although it can be scary to feel out of breath, keeping active can actually reduce your breathlessness, increase your energy levels and reduce the chance of you getting a flare up of your breathing condition. 

Here's our top tips to get you started:

  • First and foremost remember that although it can be scary to feel out of breath, keeping active can actually reduce your breathlessness, increase your energy levels and reduce the chance of you getting a flare up of your breathing condition
  • Blow as you go! Use this technique when you’re doing activities which make you feel breathless. Breathe in before you make the effort, then breath out during the effort. For example blow out as you get up from sitting to standing, blow out as you go up a step etc
  • Pace yourself! Use this technique to take control of your breathing during activity. For example: breathe in for one step and out for two or three steps
  • Make it social. By asking a friend to get active with you, you’ll keep each other motivated and keeping active in a group is known to be more beneficial than doing it on your own
  • If you have a respiratory condition and haven’t been to pulmonary rehabilitation then ask your GP to refer you. These are tailored classes for people with breathing problems where you’re supported to learn how to keep active
  • Always makes sure you have your inhaler and get top ups with plenty of notice. Lots of people take their inhalers incorrectly and the medicine doesn’t get into the lungs where it is needed, so before you embark on exercise ask a respiratory health professional to check your inhaler technique
  • Lots of people with breathing trouble are fearful of going outside when it’s cold as the cold air can make them wheezy. Use a scarf wrapped round your face loosely to warm and moisten the air, thus reducing the chance of a wheeze
  • Use the technique of pursed lip breathing to control your breathing or when you’re doing activity that makes you breathless. Breathe in gently through your nose, then purse your lips like you’re blowing bubbles or a candle out and breathe out through your pursed lips
  • Keep motivated. Think about the activities you find hard now and what you’d like to be able to do to in the future. Set yourself small goals and keep a record of them
  • Finally and quite simply, choose an exercise you enjoy! You’re much more likely to stick at keeping active if you’ve picked something you enjoy doing.

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Last reviewed

3 July 2018
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